American Hockey League cancels rest of season, playoffs

  • FILE - In this March 16, 2019, file photo, Lehigh Valley Phantoms' Steven Swavely (11) moves the puck past the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins' Jarrett Burton after a faceoff during an AHL hockey game at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The American Hockey League has canceled the rest of its season because of the coronavirus pandemic. President and CEO David Andrews announced the league ‘has determined that the resumption and completion of the 2019-20 season is not feasible in light of current conditions.’ The AHL's Board of Governors made that determination in a conference call Friday, May 8, 2020. (Christopher Dolan/The Citizens' Voice via AP, File) Christopher Dolan

  • FILE - In this June 14, 2018, file photo, Toronto Marlies right wing Ben Smith hoists the Calder Cup after Game 7 of the AHL Calder Cup final against the Texas Stars in Toronto. The American Hockey League has canceled the rest of its season because of the coronavirus pandemic. President and CEO David Andrews announced the league ‘has determined that the resumption and completion of the 2019-20 season is not feasible in light of current conditions.’ The AHL's Board of Governors made that determination in a conference call Friday, May 8, 2020. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP, File) Nathan Denette

Associated Press
Published: 5/11/2020 3:11:22 PM
Modified: 5/11/2020 5:09:29 PM

The American Hockey League canceled the rest of its season Monday because of the coronavirus pandemic and shifted its focus toward next season.

President and CEO David Andrews announced the league “has determined that the resumption and completion of the 2019-20 season is not feasible in light of current conditions.” The AHL’s Board of Governors made that determination in a conference call Friday.

“It’s something that was essentially inevitable,” said Syracuse defenseman Cameron Gaunce, who is an AHL executive committee member for the Professional Hockey Players Association. “I think they had been waiting for this point because they wanted to see if there had been any changes, and I think that was the responsible way to go about it. They didn’t want to make any knee-jerk reactions either way.”

The 84th season for the NHL’s top minor league was suspended March 12 with 209 games remaining. That was the same day the NHL stopped play, though it still hopes to resume and could include many AHL players as part of expanded rosters.

“We are very grateful to the National Hockey League and its teams for their support and leadership in navigating through the challenges faced over the past two months,” Andrews said. “The AHL continues to place paramount importance on the health and safety of our players, officials, staff and fans and all of their families, and we all look forward to returning to our arenas in 2020-21.”

While the Calder Cup will not be handed out for the first time since 1936, the 31-team AHL hopes to return next season. That remains uncertain; one possibility is that no fans would be allowed in arenas.

“These truly are unprecedented circumstances, and though it is not the outcome that we all hoped for, we fully support the decision made today by the American Hockey League to cancel the remainder of the 2019-20 season,” Springfield Thunderbirds president Nathan Costa said in a statement. “On behalf of the entire Thunderbirds organization, we would like to thank our great fans for their unwavering support this year as well as the Florida Panthers for their commitment to our city during the first four years of our franchise. Please continue to adhere to all local and federal guidelines in an effort to stay safe, and I can’t wait to see all of you in a few short months to kick off our 5th Anniversary season at the MassMutual Center in 2020-21.”

The Thunderbirds were in fifth place in the Atlantic Division at 31-27-3-0 when the season was suspended. They trailed Hartford by eight points.

“Though the final standings will show the T-Birds on the cusp of a playoff berth for the first time in their history, we continued to make an impact in the Springfield community during our fourth season,” Costa said. “We had nine sellouts through the shortened 20-21 season, the same number as all of last season, as well as eclipsing the 5,000 per game attendance mark for the second consecutive season with an average of 5,262 per game. Next season will be a special one for the organization, as we begin a five-year affiliation agreement with the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues to coincide with the club’s fifth year of existence.”

PHPA executive director Larry Landon recently said he’s concerned about the ability of the AHL and ECHL — which canceled the rest of its season in March — returning if it’s not safe for fans.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen, whether there’s going to be an AHL season next year,” said Gaunce, whose NHL/AHL contract with Tampa Bay is set to expire after this season. “The AHL and the NHL are going to do everything they can to make sure that the AHL is active next year and you hope that’s the case. But if it is, what’s it going to look like? If ticket revenues aren’t part of the revenue stream for a lot of these teams, that’s going to affect a lot of their bottom lines. And if that’s the case, how many expenses are they really going to be willing to take on? So it’s something that’s up in the air.”

NOTE: Fans who have questions about tickets for remaining Thunderbirds games can call 413-739-GOAL.


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